As a result of a lawsuit filed against Sarasota County Jan. 31, the Sarasota County Commission agreed with staff members that annual reviews are needed to make sure property owners are not assessed an inappropriate amount of tax each year to pay for a municipal parking lot created in 1998 between Avenida Madera and Avenida de Mayo.
The lawsuit was the second time parking issues had had a prominent role in legal action taken against the county by Siesta Village property owner Chris Brown. When Brown began renovating a structure in the village that became The Hub Baja Grill in late 2007, he was told he could not get a building permit unless he paid into the Siesta Key Parking Fund for on-site and off-site parking spaces. The reason, county staff told him, was because he did not have adequate spaces adjacent to the restaurant to support the planned 160-person seating area. Disputes over that parking situation were one factor in a lawsuit he filed against the county in late 2007.
That matter ultimately was resolved a couple of years later by a change of county ordinance. After months of discussions about the Village parking problems — involving county officials, the Siesta Key and Siesta Key Village associations and business owners — the county finally amended the zoning code to eliminate the parking requirement for restaurants with less than 2,000 square feet, including The Hub. Brown’s attorney, Morgan Bentley, of Williams Parker, pointed that out in the second lawsuit filed in January.
Yet, when Brown received his 2010 tax bill, he found he had been assessed $2,107.16 bill for the original parking deficit at The Hub, plus an assessment of $1,244.25 for the general parking requirement that went back to the 1998 parking lot issue.
A March 14 memo prepared by the Office of the County Attorney pointed out that Brown should not have had an assessment on his 2010 tax bill as a result of his 2007 renovations at The Hub.
However, it said, the municipal parking project was to be paid over 20 years. The total cost of that project was $863,714.51; as of fiscal year 2010, about $382,000 remained to be assessed to complete the payment.
Brown recently was reimbursed for the assessment, Bentley told the Pelican Press. However, until Tuesday the County Commission had not resolved other points Bentley had raised about the parking assessments.
In an email response to questions Tuesday, Bentley told the Pelican that the county staff recommendation presented to the County Commission Tuesday “says they will make sure the (parking assessment) numbers are accurate in the future. Technically, they were supposed to do that each year.”
The Pelican was unable to reach Ryan Montague in the Public Works/Traffic office for comment.
Contact Rachel Brown Hackney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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